Cardinals announce 2024 Opening Day roster

March 27th, 2024

In an effort to avoid the strategic pitfalls that befell their outfield during the 2023 season, the Cardinals eagerly named Tommy Edman, Lars Nootbaar and Jordan Walker as their starters three months before Spring Training even began.

However, Murphy’s Law had something to say about the Cardinals’ plans, with a bevy of injuries sending them repeatedly scrambling to get a reworked roster -- which was announced on Wednesday -- ready for the season opener at Dodger Stadium on Thursday.

Edman, the converted center fielder who played 42 error-free games there last season, arrived to camp with lingering pain, swelling and stiffness in his surgically repaired right wrist. He has been shut down three times in Spring Training, he’s yet to hit live pitching and he’s already been ruled out for the start of the season.

Then, a few weeks into Spring Training, Nootbaar went down -- literally -- while trying to make a twisting catch near the wall against the Astros. When his left elbow wedged between the wall and his midsection, he was left with two rib fractures that will also knock him out for Opening Day.

Dylan Carlson, who took advantage of Edman’s absence to launch a strong spring, figured to be the starter in center field, but that opportunity ended on Monday when he fell hard on the warning track and sprained the AC joint in his left shoulder. Enter rookie speedster Victor Scott II, who pushed Carlson for the starting job and who will now make his MLB debut at Dodger Stadium.

Injuries to Sonny Gray and Keynan Middleton, arguably the franchise’s two most significant free-agent signings, also had the Cards rethinking how they will shape up to begin the season. Here is the St. Louis' 26-man roster:

Catcher (2): ,
Contreras had much of the 2023 pitching problems blame heaped upon him early on, but he handled it with grace. After July 1, he ranked second in MLB in OPS (1.059) and OBP (.440). If Herrera hits like he has in the past, he could catch three days a week while Contreras is at DH.

First baseman (1):
The superstar had a respectable 2023, hitting .268 with 25 home runs and 80 RBIs. However, when stacked against his 2022 NL MVP season (.317, 35, 115), it felt like a drop-off. Goldschmidt, 36, has worked to fight off the effects of Father Time, and a strong start could lead to a contract extension that would allow him to finish his career in St. Louis.

Second baseman (1):
The Cardinals believe the only thing standing between Gorman and a 40-home run season is good health. He worked hard in the offseason to alleviate his back issues, and he’s had a tremendous spring. With him manning second, it allows the Cards to move Brendan Donovan all around the diamond.

Shortstop (1):
There is plenty of intrigue surrounding the 21-year-old Winn and his immediate future. The club's top prospect (per MLB Pipeline) had a 37-game cameo last season at the MLB level, where he hit just .172. If he adapts to big league pitching, he might be the club’s starting shortstop for the next decade. If not, is the break-glass-if-necessary insurance option.

Third baseman (1):
The superstar was the Cardinals' lone All-Star in 2023, but it was far from a memorable season. A bad back affected him at the plate and defensively as his streak of 30-home run, 100-RBI seasons ended at seven and his Gold Glove streak stopped at 10. He’s more motivated than ever to show he’s still among the game’s greats.

Outfielders (3): Victor Scott II, Brendan Donovan, Jordan Walker
Carlson led the Cardinals in spring home runs (three) and RBIs (13), but his shoulder injury means he will open the season on the injured list, along with Edman and Nootbaar. The healing of Donovan’s surgically repaired right elbow will allow him to play left field. Scott finished his first MLB Spring Training by hitting .317 with four stolen bases in five attempts.

DH (1):
When Gorman is at second and Donovan is in the outfield, the DH spot will likely be a rotation of Alec Burleson, Contreras, Carpenter and Herrera. Following an offseason of working with former Cardinals teammate Matt Holliday, Carpenter has hit the ball well in camp. He’s been one of the Cardinals most productive hitters this spring, giving the team hope that he can be a key contributor as a veteran leader and a big bat in the lineup.

Bench/Utility (3): , ,
The 37-year-old Crawford was added to serve as insurance behind Winn, but he's hoping to show he has something left now that he’s injury free. Burleson is a professional hitter, and all metrics seem to indicate that he’s going to have a great season at the plate. Siani made the roster because of his stellar defense and his improved bat, and he’ll see most of his playing time as a late-game defensive replacement or a pinch-runner.

Starting Pitchers (5): , , , ,
Gray was as good as advertised early in Spring Training, but a right hamstring strain means he’ll start on the 15-day injured list instead of starting on Opening Day. Even in a down year, Mikolas pitched 201 1/3 innings, and history says he’ll rebound. Lynn surrendered 44 home runs in 2023, but playing in Busch Stadium and improving his pitch mix should help. Gibson, a 15-game winner in 2023, should be a steadying force. The Cards desperately need Matz to be more reliable. Thompson won the battle with Matthew Liberatore to become the No. 5 starter.

Relief Pitchers (8): , , , , , , Riley O'Brien,
The Cards were a different team late last season after the return of Helsley, who missed 2 1/2 months with a forearm strain. Kittredge was an All-Star in 2021, and he’s looked to be back to that level late last season and this spring. Losing Middleton to a forearm strain was a huge blow to the bullpen, but the Cards are hopeful he can return following one 15-day IL stint. O’Brien’s 98 mph fastball and a sweeper were Spring Training revelations. Liberatore could get high-leverage opportunities out of the bullpen.